With these conditions Elma says working on keeping your strength is important and postures like Warrior Two, a strong pose that strengthens the shoulders, arms, feet, ankles and legs is powerful. As well as helping with mobility and keeping the body supple through stretching, she says yoga also teaches you how to think about things differently.
“It teaches you how to focus and how to live in the present. You learn that you have emotional control through your breathing and you can train yourself to relax. As we age, we will all get things in life – we will get sick. Yoga can help build resilience to cope with life situations and it teaches you body awareness,” says Elma.
Two years ago Patsy started attending Elma’s classes and now he says he’s converted. “My body is more flexible. I don’t get as achy as I used to. It’s just a really calm, nice thing to do. As a man you don’t get to do nice, soft things very often. To do something beautiful with your body – I like that space where I can do these things,” he says.
He says his own practice also made him more thoughtful about his general health and well-being. “I went for a check-up and I lost a stone in weight. I wouldn’t miss the classes now,” says Patsy.
While they always remained connected to Clonmany through summer visits when there was no running water in the house and no inside toilet, the house and its owners are enjoying a renaissance.
Now rainwater is harvested and UV filtered for their use in the house and a small extension to the old cottage mixes the old with the modern. Elma’s yoga is allowing her to bring her passion to a whole new audience, bringing an added dimension to her life back in Donegal.
“I think you have to have a passion and you follow that. You need to do something that inspires you. I sometimes think ‘what if I had never found yoga – what would I do?’ Not everyone is going to like yoga. I would love it to work for you but for some people it doesn’t float their boat,” says Elma.
“Yoga changes as you get older. The yoga that you do at 20 is not going to be the same when you are 60. At 20 you may be making these amazing shapes. You are full of ego. At 60 the postures may not be as driven but there’s a deeper understanding of them,” she says.
While she says it’s something of a paradox yoga is about a journey into less, not constantly striving for more. She says life is like that too and while everyone can get stuck and wonder why things can’t just stay the same, life is not like that.
Losing her beloved friend Linda and her cherished mother-in-law Isabel earlier this year – she knows only too well that life is constantly changing.
Letting go of the past and learning non-attachment is something that Elma feels she’s learned through yoga. Now she’s on a mission to let others know how yoga can enrich their lives to regardless of age or ability. It’s no wonder she’s in big demand.
● This article is part of a series of profiles of people who are redefining later life. If you know someone who may fit the bill, email firstname.lastname@example.org